Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pole Vaulter Disqualified Due to ... Yes, Really ... Friendship Bracelet

The things people who coach kids will do to gain a competitive advantage just make me sick sometimes.

A prime example of that is this story out of California. At a high school track meet, with the league title on the line, the deciding points were determined by ...

A friendship bracelet.

I swear I'm not making this up.

A high school senior was disqualified from this meet in Pasadena because she wore a friendship bracelet while she did the pole vault.

... the visiting girls team from Monrovia High was seeking its first-ever Rio Hondo League title against longtime powerhouse South Pasadena High.

With the teams separated by a few points and only the pole vault remaining, Monrovia needed a second-place finish in the event to secure the victory and obtain the title. Both teams gathered around the pole vault pit, loudly celebrating and agonizing over every clearance and miss. Although South Pasadena's Rachel Ma led at 7-feet-6, two Monrovia girls had cleared 7-feet to give their team the lead.

But South Pasadena's best vaulter, Robin Laird, had not competed yet. Now she stood at the top of the runway, preparing for her first vault of the long day -- an attempt at 7-feet-6 that could win the event, the meet and the league title. The crowd fell silent. A crosswind was blowing. Laird began to sprint down the runway through the gauntlet of spectators, but suddenly stopped; something didn't feel right.

"I was feeling nervous," she would later say, "because the whole league championship was on the line."

Laird walked back to the top of the runway, gained her composure, then took off again. This time everything was in sync. She planted the pole, lifted herself into the air and soared easily over the bar to give her team a 66-61 victory. While half the crowd cheered and the other half groaned, Monrovia coach Mike Knowles reacted by pointing to his wrist and gesturing toward Laird, who was wearing a thin, colorful string bracelet.

Knowles justified his decision to tattle by pointing out that he's coached the sport for 30-some years and knows the rules.

Opposing coach P.J. Hernandez doesn't dispute the ruling, but he seems to think there was some gamesmanship at work here.

"Mike Knowles was down by the pole vault pit, kind of waiting and sitting there, keeping an eye on our girl, waiting for her to attempt the vault and then make the call, " said Hernandez. "I am upset that he wanted to win so badly that he would do it that way. We feel sportsmanship is important, too, and that it is in question with him in this situation."

When is it okay for a drive and desire to win to take over for common sense and good sportsmanship?

No one argues that this rule doesn't exist or wasn't properly applied.

(It can be argued, however, that this is a really stupid rule. A blanket rule about jewelry probably is the easy way out for a high school sports league, but reality is that there are no competitive or safety concerns involved with a piece of string on someone's wrist. The blanket rule is understandable, but about as necessary as a batting glove for a tee-ball player.)

Later in the article, Knowles is quoted as insisting he didn't notice the bracelet until after the gal had cleared the meet-winning jump, and he "didn't want to have to do it."

Only in your warped, over-competitive mind, Coach Knowles, did you have to do anything. There was no obligation to "do the right thing" and tattle on Laird. In fact, the right thing to do would have been to keep your mouth shut until you had a chance to shake the winning coach's hand.

At that point, you kindly mention something like:

"I noticed your last pole vaulter jumped while wearing a friendship bracelet. I just want you to know that any jewelry on a competitor is grounds for disqualification as per Section 3, Article 3 of the National Federation of State High School Associations. I didn't have the heart to do it, but understand that even in high school sports, some coaches are over-competitive jackasses who will stop at nothing to win, even if it means tattling on a teenager for wearing a piece of string on her wrist. Congratulations to you and your team on a well-deserved win today."

That way, you address the issue without breaking the hearts of a bunch of people who had no clue.

Everyone learns a lesson, and your team learns the most important rule of all:

Just because you have a chance to gain a competitive advantage doesn't mean you should do it.


Anonymous said...

Mike Knowles is a jerk -- 1st class jackass.

Anonymous said...

^^^^^^ couldn't have said it better myself